So you have decided to check out an unknown Greek island, Iraklia. Well done! It’s a fantastic place, where time seems to have stopped. This article will shed some light on how to get to Iraklia island in Greece.
Iraklia island in the Cyclades
Hello! I’m Vanessa from Athens. I have been travelling around my country since I was a kid, and I am particularly interested in beaches! I love small, off-the-beaten-track islands, and am glad my country has so many.
It’s no secret that Greece has several popular islands, such as Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Skiathos and Zakynthos. However, we have many quiet Greek islands as well. Iraklia is one of them. You may also see it as Irakleia or Heraklia, not to be confused with Heraklion in Crete.
Iraklia is one of the Small Cyclades islands, together with Schinoussa, Koufonissi and Donoussa. They are all close to Naxos, which is bigger and more famous. Like the name suggests, all these islands are small, and relatively unknown, apart from Koufonissi.
Depending on who you ask, around 80-150 people live in Iraklia year-round! So Iraklia Cyclades is an ideal place to relax, unwind and get away from it all. Quite honestly, there are very few things you can do here. If all you want to do during your Greek vacation is to swim, hike and eat, Iraklia is for you.
I first went to Iraklia in August 2010, and returned in July 2017. I wouldn’t say the island has developed massively. It is still a quiet place, largely untouched by the mass tourism that has irreversibly changed some of our islands.
To be fair, I’m a bit uncertain on whether I should actually write about this little paradise. Then again, I’m sure that if you choose to visit Iraklia you are very conscious about your choice.
What is there to do in Iraklia?
If you are going to Iraklia, don’t expect much in the way of nightlife and attractions. What brings visitors to Iraklia is its remoteness, the wild nature, the rugged beaches and the lovely treks.
Hiking around Iraklia Greece is pretty fantastic. If you’ve done any hiking around Andros, Tinos, Kythnos or Paros, you know what we are talking about! That said, Iraklia is pretty unique because of the Agios Ioannis cave.
This massive cave is not officially open to the public, but you can visit it nevertheless. Make sure you have some walking shoes and a good torch. It might be best to ask someone for directions. The entrance is rather tricky to find and you’ll have to crawl!
Apart from the cave, Iraklia has tons of cliffs. The views from Papas, the highest point of the island, are unbelievable. I’ve been to 35-40 Greek islands and these are definitely among my favourite views!
Iraklia has nowhere near as many beaches as nearby Schinoussa. However, Livadi beach, a short walk from the port, is likely to stay in your mind forever. It’s definitely one of the best beaches in Greece as far as I’m concerned! As it’s facing north, it can get quite wavy during the meltemi season. Most of the other beaches in Iraklia are accessible by boat.
And how about food? I hear you ask. Well – you’ll be surprised at how amazingly tasty the food is in Iraklia. Considering that they have to bring much of it in from other islands, it’s a miracle. We loved Akathi, Maistrali and Eolos, and Surfin Bird is a must-visit, if only for the views.
Getting to Iraklia isn’t exactly quick, but it’s fairly straightforward. This is how to get to Iraklia from Athens and other Cyclades islands.
How to get to Iraklia from Piraeus in Athens
Many of the bigger Greek islands have airports. As you would expect, Iraklia is one of these islands that you can only get to by ferry.
Getting to Iraklia from Piraeus port in Athens is fairly simple, as there are three direct ferries per week. The route is served by the Blue Star Ferries company.
On most years, a large Blue Star ferry departs from Piraeus three times a week. It stops at Syros, Paros and Naxos on its way to Iraklia, and continues to Schinoussa, Koufonisia and Amorgos.
You can check ferry schedules and book your tickets in advance on Ferryscanner. Nowadays, you will receive an electronic ticket in your email. This means that you will no longer need to pick paper tickets from Piraeus port before your trip. If you book your tickets through this form, I get a small commission which helps me run the website!
On some years, the ferry gets to Iraklia at around 1 am, or maybe later if there is a delay. This would normally be party time in some other islands, but not in Iraklia!
Chances are that you will be staying in the port town, Agios Georgios, where most of the hotels in Iraklia are located. It wouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes to get to your hotel.
Speaking of which – if search engines like booking.com don’t bring up many accommodation options, try Google Maps instead. You can also ask us for recommendations and hotel contact details.
What are the Blue Star Ferries like?
The Blue Star Ferries are pretty massive ferries, with common areas, open decks and plenty of seating space.
There are several categories of tickets. The cheapest option is a deck ticket at 34 euro, whereas a cabin will set you back much more. Occasionally, it is possible to get discounted, non-changeable tickets at 20 or 27 euro.
We generally prefer to get either deck seats or perhaps numbered seats, if travelling during peak season. For some people, an 8-hour long trip may be too long so they could consider getting a cabin.
Since this ferry serves many destinations, it’s best to get your tickets in advance, especially during July and August.
How to get to Iraklia from other Cyclades islands
People who are island hopping around the Cyclades can also reach Iraklia on a smaller ferry called Express Skopelitis. This legendary boat belongs to a family company, Skopelitis Lines.
It has been connecting Naxos, Amorgos and the rest of the Small Cyclades since the 1950s. Don’t worry though – the ferries are replaced now and then, but the name stays the same!
Their newest ferry is quite modern. In fact, the family company won the Lloyd’s “Best Passenger Line of the Year” Award in 2013.
Unlike its name suggests, it’s not the fastest ferry in the Aegean, but it’s a fantastic experience. It runs on a daily basis, serving different islands every other day. You can check their routes here.
People coming from abroad could fly to Naxos with a stopover in Athens, and then get the Skopelitis ferry. However, I have a feeling that if you’ve chosen to go to Iraklia you might enjoy slower-paced vacations!
For something more unique, there is always the option of a sailing trip around the Cyclades. You could even hire a local boat if you ask around at the port. Start with Dimitris, the captain of Anemos boat, who organizes day trips around Iraklia.
Information about Iraklia Greece
I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any more questions about Iraklia, feel free to ask below!
You might also be interested in these other travel guides: